Yemen: Amal Hussain, whose image drew attention to famine, dies

The seven-year-old girl, whose New York Times portrait caused outcry, passed away in a refugee camp, her family says.

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Amal Hussain died of malnutrition in a refugee camp in northern Yemen. She was seven years old [Tyler Hicks/The New York Times/Redux]

Amal Hussain, a seven-year-old girl whose image in the New York Times last week brought new attention to the thousands upon thousands of children suffering the dire consequences of Yemen’s devastating war, has died, according to the newspaper.

The child died of malnutrition in a refugee camp in northern Yemen, her family told the Times on Thursday.

“My heart is broken,” Mariam Ali, the girl’s mother, was quoted as saying.

“Amal was always smiling. Now, I’m worried for my other children.”

The Times also quoted Mekkia Mahdi, a Yemeni doctor who had treated the girl shortly before her death, as saying: “We have many more cases like her.” 

The photograph by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tyler Hicks, which showed the emaciated girl lying on a bed inside a mobile UNICEF clinic in Aslam, touched a nerve with people across the world and sparked an outcry over a crisis that has been called by the United Nations the worst in the word.

Speaking to The Takeaway radio programme earlier this week, described how photographing Amal was “difficult” and “heartbreaking” but also “important.”

“She really sums up how tragic and how bad the malnutrition and the starvation have really become in Yemen,” the photographer said.

‘At risk of death’

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been embroiled in a devastating war since September 2014, when Houthi fighters swept into the capital, Sanaa, and overthrew President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi‘s internationally recognised government.

Worried by the rise of the Houthis, believed to be backed by regional rival Iran, a Saudi-UAE-led military coalition launched an intervention in 2015 in the form of a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government.

Civilians, including children, have borne the brunt of the conflict which has killed at least 10,000 people since the coalition intervened in Yemen, according to the UN. The death toll has not been updated in years and is likely to be far higher. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an independent watchdog, recently said around 56,000 Yemenis had been killed in the violence.

The UN has repeatedly criticised the alliance’s bombing campaign and placed it on a blacklist of child rights violators last year.

Last week, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that Yemen is in danger of being engulfed by an “imminent and great big famine” that could affect 14 million people, or around half of the population.

Lowcock said that the looming famine could be “bigger than anything any professional in this field has encountered during their working lives”.

The cost of food has increased by 35 percent in the last 12 months and if trends continue the riyal will reach an exchange rate of 1,000 to the US dollar, UN officials have also warned.

“Lack of food, displacement, poor nutrition, disease outbreaks and eroding healthcare” have also affected 1.1 million malnourished and lactating women, and if the situation continues to deteriorate, up to two million mothers may be increasingly at risk of death,” the UN Population Fund reported on Thursday.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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